Online Prerequisites Faculty: Antonio Valencia

Putting the “Hands On” into Online Labs

Antonio Valencia

You know technology moves fast when something called “cutting-edge” just a short time ago is now deemed archaic.

“The virtual labs are ‘old school,’” says Antonio Valencia, PhD, who is the Lab Manager for Chemistry and Biology courses in the MGH Institute’s Prerequisites for the Health Professions program. “Students would log on to a platform and move substances into beakers with their mouse.”

For online distance learning, the virtual platform was a step in the right direction. But Dr. Valencia believes it is important to have experience doing experiments by hand. So he collaborated with Dr. Sandra Buerger, another science prerequisite faculty member, to find physical experiment kits for students.

Dr. Valencia negotiated with the company eScience to build custom experiment kits with safe chemicals. The students receive the kits and a code for the eScience website. There they can watch demo videos and learn how to manage the materials.

“Students perform the experiments so they can understand the questions,” explains Dr. Valencia. “How can this lab be applied in real life, to solve problems for public health?”

The hands-on lab kits in the Institute’s online learning environment have been a success, as six classes are now using them.

Dr. Valencia understands the importance of solving problems. After spending 11 years with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, he now is a scientist in pharmacology and neurology research at Cambridge biotech leader Biogen where he is a part of the team that does neurological research for Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m helping the team find molecules and antibodies to review the toxic proteins in the disease,” he says.

Through the online forum, Dr. Valencia offers his students one-on-one calls (or chats) to discuss the interpretations of the lab and discuss the science.

“I am extremely happy that the kits have been a success and I am proud of the students. I am here to give them everything they need,” Dr. Valencia says.